Tag Archives: Friends of Queensway

QueensWay gets big lift with $443,750 state grant for park design


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of thequeensway.org

The campaign to turn an abandoned railroad line into a new park running through Queens got a huge lift with a $443,750 grant from the state that was announced on Friday.

The project, called QueensWay, will be able to use the funding from the New York City Regional Economic Development Council toward the design of the first phase of the proposed park, officials said on Friday.

“This vital grant brings us one step closer to making the QueensWay a reality,” said Rep. Joe Crowley. “I thank Gov. Cuomo and the New York City Regional Economic Development Council for their steadfast commitment to building a unique park in our borough that will not only provide great health and environmental benefits to the surrounding communities but also the potential to spur significant economic growth in the area.”

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi said the governor’s economic council targets funding to projects that will have an impact on the local economy. “The QueensWay is one of those projects and I’m glad to support the great effort of The Trust for Public Land and Friends of the QueensWay to bring this transformative project to our community,” he said.

Funding, which goes jointly to the Friends of Queensway and The Trust for Public Land, will be used to design the park’s “Northern Gateway” section, beginning in Rego Park, near Forest Hills.

“This site, at the north end of the QueensWay, is an ideal way to begin to connect the residents to a portion of this 47-acre corridor,” read a statement announcing the grant. “The section will retain and feature a large number of mature trees and will include a nature-themed adventure playground, large bioretention basins and other green infrastructure that can absorb large quantities of stormwater, and access paths to adjacent streets.”

QueensWay calls for converting the 3.5-mile-long former rail corridor into a “linear park and cultural greenway.”

While the project enjoys the support of many elected officials, it also faces opposition from other city and state lawmakers who want the MTA to return rail service that they say is desperately needed to link southern Queens with Manhattan.

I am deeply disappointed with the Regional Economic Development Council’s recent decision to grant funding for a park proposal on Rockaway Beach Rail Line right-of-way. Our tax dollars are being wasted on overpriced out-of-borough consultants that shove their one-sided studies and expensive designs down our throats. The Council has once again ignored the needs of real Queens families who struggle with our lack of transit options,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. “It’s clear that reactivating the Rockaway Beach Rail Line is the best and most cost-effective way to expand transit in Queens while easing commutes, creating jobs, cleaning the environment and expanding our economic development. I will continue to fight until this becomes a reality and our families in Queens have the transportation options they need and deserve.”

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Transit committee finds new support for restarting Rockaway Beach Line


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Jeff Liao

One by one, members of the Queens Public Transit Committee (QPTC), an organization focused on improving transportation in the borough, thanked Community Board 5 (CB5) last week.

The board voted to support the idea of restarting the defunct Rockaway Beach Line last month, in part to help ease traffic congestion issues on major thoroughfares, such as Woodhaven Boulevard.

The news was significant for QPTC, because the 3.5-mile trail could also be transformed into a park.

“Getting more people like CB5 is tremendous because they realize overcrowding is becoming a major problem,” said Phil McManus, chair of the QPTC.

In November of last year, Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, who has voiced support for a new train, announced that Queens College will be doing a study of both the train and park ideas.

The Friends of the QueensWay (FQW), a group made up of residents that live near the trail who are pushing to transform the former rail line into a public green space, has argued against restarting the line.

“After over five decades of abandonment and multiple studies concluding that rail reactivation is not feasible, the time has come to utilize the over 50 acres of land that make up the QueensWay,” according to a statement from FQW. “As evidence shows, rebuilding this abandoned land will dramatically improve the quality of life, create jobs and safer streets, and highlight the incredible history and cultural diversity of central and southern Queens.”

FQW also said that the new park will have a much needed bike path, which could be used for transportation.

Not everyone has taken a side though. Members of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) would like to see formal proposals, instead of making a decision on speculation.

“We want to make sure a lot of concerns are answered. Can’t say that we are for or against,” said Martin Colberg, president of the WRBA.

McManus said the QPTC isn’t opposed to doing both ideas in some capacity, but a FQW representative said that isn’t a possibility.

“I just don’t see that as being realistic,” said Travis Terry, a member of FQW Steering Committee. “I wouldn’t even like to consider that option until there is some proof.”

 

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Rockaway Beach line restoration gets federal support


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Terence Cullen

Proposed revival of the Rockaway Beach LIRR Line has gotten some federal backing.

Congressmembers Hakeem Jeffries and Gregory Meeks are all-aboard for restoring the 50-year-defunct line in a new form, which would effectively link Rego Park to Ozone Park via mass transit.

Together with Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, they have sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, asking for federal money from Sandy for restoring the line.

“What this rail line would do, if completely restored, would intersect on five or six different points, giving people options,” said Goldfeder, who’s pushed rail restoration since coming into office a year-and-a-half ago.

“If you try and drive on Woodhaven Boulevard or Cross Bay Boulevard in the morning or afternoon, our streets are jammed.”

Meeks, who began representing the Rockaways in January, said this was needed now more than ever as the peninsula and its residents try to rebuild.

Jeffries, representing Ozone Park and Howard Beach, said south Queens commuters have one of the longest trips to Manhattan, and LIRR service would reduce the hour-plus commute to Midtown. It is, he noted, one of the longest commutes within NYC, “perhaps rivaled only by some in the southern part of Staten Island.”

Because neighborhoods such as Woodhaven have expanded closer to the tracks since train service ended in June 1962, many are concerned about a rail line right next to their home. But officials say they’ve explored new ways of silent transportation, such as a monorail, to reduce noise.

Trains could stop at the Howard Beach-JFK A train station in Coleman Square if the line is revived.

Commuters going to Rockaway would transfer to the A train, which is expected to be up and running later this summer.

A rail line, however, is not the only plan on the table for the three-mile strip.

The Queensway, a nature walk, has been the counterpart proposal to the plan and would be similar to the Highline in Manhattan. Andrea Crawford, a founding member of “Friends of Queensway,” said she didn’t believe the LIRR would be a practical way of transit – suggesting instead implementing rapid bus transit or improving A train service.

Members of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association are for better north-south transportation in Queens and reducing traffic on Woodhaven Boulevard, said communications director Alex Blenkinsopp. Because the rail line would run so close to homes, however, they are against this type of development.

WRBA hosted a town hall meeting on the LIRR line and the Queensway last September, but ultimately decided to urge the city to clean up the abandoned, overgrown strip of land.

“They’re not even trying to convince Woodhaven at this point,” Blenkinsopp said. “They seem to have decided that they need to railroad us, rather than attempting to address our concerns.”

 

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Queensway closer to reality


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Because of a state-secured grant, the much debated Queensway project is one step closer to getting off the ground.

The Trust for Park Land has received $467,000 from Governor Andrew Cuomo to study the feasibility of a three-and-a-half mile greenway on what once was the Rockaway Beach LIRR line.

This study would look at the plethora of things that go into converting the abandoned rail line into parkland, including engineering requirements, the environmental impact of the project and community feedback. Because more homes have been built around the tracks since service stopped in 1963, any use of the land would require studies to see how it will affect residents.

Friends of the Queensway, an advocacy group for the nature space, say it’s the first step in making the five-year-old dream come true.

“This is tremendous,” said Friends of the Queensway member Andrea Crawford. “This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

The walkway, expected to be double the size of Manhattan’s High Line, would celebrate the culture and diversity of Queens, Crawford said. If approved, it would run through neighborhoods such as Forest Hills, Woodhaven and Richmond Hill.

“There’s a hundred and something languages spoken within a mile of the Queensway,” she said. “So that’s what makes this so exciting. It really represents Queens.”

Others, however, have different ideas on what the land could be used for, particularly transportation for south and central Queens. A new Rockaway LIRR line would connect south Queens to the rest of the borough via mass transit, ease traffic problems and streamline a significantly long commute to Manhattan.

Either project would potentially run right through the middle of Forest Park as well.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, who has pushed for a new Rockaway Beach LIRR, thinks this new study should include a look at new transportation options as well. Goldfeder said he is working with rail advocates to ensure transportation is included in the study.

“I am opposed to any plan, or any study, that would exclude the opportunity and possibility of transportation via rail line,” he said. “I’m working with transportation and rail advocates that will work with the Trust for Public Land and do a rail feasibility study at the same time.”

Some just want the strip of land to be cleaned up and maintained.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) has not taken a position on either side, but instead thinks the city should address the years of neglect. Either project would misuse state funds and be disruptive to residents living around the area — effectively ruining the character of the neighborhood, said WRBA President Ed Wendell.

“We heard from our residents; they’re dead-set against either plan,” Wendell said.

Fate of defunct Queens rail tracks to be debated


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association

The future of 50-year defunct rail tracks that run from Rego Park to the Jamaica Bay will be debated on Saturday, September 29 at a public forum hosted by the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA).

The hearing, to be held at the Queens Tabernacle at 1 p.m., will host advocates for a natural walkway, Friends of Queensway, and those who are for a revival of the Rockaway Beach rail line, which ended all service in 1962.

Regardless of what becomes of the trail, the impact on residents must be taken into place, said WRBA Communications Director Alex Blenkinsopp.

“My entire life, I’ve resided just a block away from those tracks.  I know that either proposal, if it became a reality, would have an enormous impact on those who live nearby, and on Woodhaven as a whole,” he said. “Other neighborhoods have publicly weighed in on this debate.  Now it’s time for the people of Woodhaven to hear the arguments for each side, ask tough questions, and make known where they stand.”

Residents may ask either side questions when the presentations are completed.